The Deceptive Success of Copyright Licenses

Tue Dec 23 2014 13:17:00 GMT+0000 (UTC)

In the 12 years of its existence, Creative Commons has achieved remarkable success, and among the most basic of metrics of its success is the number of CC-licensed works on the web. At last estimated there were 880M+ CC-licensed works making up the “global commons of CC-licensed information.” The strengths of Creative Commons can be summarized as such:

  • globally scalable
  • license as opposed to a contract
  • universal, unrestricted reproduction
  • no registration required

Of the 880M+ CC-licensed works out in the wild, approximately 330M+,1 or more than a third, are photographs and similar media. Compared to that, somewhere between 1.5M-2M, or approximately 0.2% of the commons, are open access science papers. The reasons for this skewed profile of the commons are many:

  • almost everyone has a tool, a phone with a camera, to create a photograph2
  • photographs are easier to create than scientific papers
  • photographs are easier to add to the commons with no vetting at source
  • a single dominant platform aids in making it easy to contribute photos
  1. Estimated ~310M photos in Flickr and ~23M media files in Wikimedia Commons make up the bulk of photos, images and similar files.
  2. The top five most popular cameras in use on Flickr are smartphones